Five Russian souls 2

Zinaida Serebriakova, Making Her Toilet, 1909. Oil on canvas pasted on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery

Zinaida Serebriakova, Making Her Toilet, 1909. Oil on canvas pasted on cardboard. The Tretyakov Gallery

Boris Grigoryev, A Girl, 1917. Lead pencil on paper. The Russian Museum

Boris Grigoryev, A Girl, 1917. Lead pencil on paper. The Russian Museum

Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Yulia Kustodieva, the Artist's Wife, 1903. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Boris Kustodiev, Portrait of Yulia Kustodieva, the Artist’s Wife, 1903. Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum

Mikhail Vrubel, Portrait of the Artist's Son in a Pram, 1902. Water-colours, whiting and lead pencil on paper pasted on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Mikhail Vrubel, Portrait of the Artist’s Son in a Pram, 1902. Water-colours, whiting and lead pencil on paper pasted on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Sergei Maliutin, Portrait of Vera Maliutina, the Artist's Daughter, 1909. Pastel on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Sergei Maliutin, Portrait of Vera Maliutina, the Artist’s Daughter, 1909. Pastel on cardboard. The Russian Museum

Source: Russian Portrait of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, I. Pruzhan, V. Kniazeva, Izobrazitelnoye Iskusstvo Publishers, Moscow, 1980

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4 thoughts on “Five Russian souls 2

  1. Does anyone else find the Kustodiev disturbing? Maybe I’m overly sensitive or just a weirdo, but there is something subtle going on in that painting that I find somewhat unsettling. Though I try and resist the temptation to generalize, I have to say that there is something beautifully unsettling about most great Russian art, including its great novels. There’s an unresolved tension…

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    • Hi Robert,
      Your excellent point is why I’m titling the series ‘Russian souls’ rather than ‘portraits’. In my view, Russians know that to live is to suffer and they embrace that and the lessons of suffering in their creativity (in sunny, consumerist Australia, to suffer is to have something ‘wrong’ with you).

      I think your words apply to both paintings by Kustodiev, particularly to that of his wife.

      This painting has really intrigued me too – his wife (obviously deliberately) is distant in the painting, her head occupying only a small area (the dog’s head occupies at least an equal area), yet it is extraordinary how complex the emotions on her ever so slightly tilted face are – directness, intensity, sensitivity, the shadow of a smile, vulnerability…fear? As you so well put it ‘beautifully unsettling…an unresolved tension’.

      Best regards, Phil

      Liked by 1 person

      • And one of the many reasons I follow your blog is that you show and explain things that I so often sense but can’t quite put my finger upon. That dog, almost surreal, her bizarre dress and that look on her face…it’s like a Kubrick film on canvas. Love your blog sir. Someday I shall have to come down and buy you a beer or a coffee.

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      • Hello Robert,
        thank you for your generous thoughts. And I have noted the thoughtfulness, clarity, imagination and energy in your own posts – all of which you have exemplified in your comments regarding Kustodiev’s portrait of his wife.

        With regard to the possibly of your making a visit ‘down under’, even though it is near midnight here now, as soon as I post this reply I will be heading out to check out quality coffee and ale houses.

        Best regards, Phil

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